Libraries

Libraries in a digital age – Reinvigorate, don't Reduce

Mark Chapman's picture

Lambeth Council announced yesterday that they intend to sell 2 of the Borough’s libraries (Waterloo and Minet), and cut the funding for another 3 (with a vague hope that local ‘Friends’ groups and volunteers take over the running of them). Whilst this has been put out as ‘prospective’ it is clear from the fact that they are already moving the Brixton Archives from Minet Library to Brixton that this is the long-term intention.

The background for this is a cut in funding for ‘cultural’ services which means that they are budgeting for just ½ the amount of money being available in 2018 as was available in 2013-14. The ‘cultural’ umbrella appears to encompass libraries, parks and other open spaces, with all areas being hit.

Should public libraries block payday loan websites?

Several UK councils are now blocking access to payday loan websites in their libraries and on their public wifi networks. Some, such as Nottingham City Council, are also redirecting users trying to visit those sites to the website of the local credit union. Usually this web blocking is part of a wider anti-debt strategy designed to help local people manage their money better that might include debt advice and personal finance courses.

This is a fundamental shift in how public libraries think about providing internet access. Public libraries have always blocked some websites. They block illegal material such as child abuse images and political extremism. And they block legal pornography because viewing it could be disruptive and offensive to some patrons beyond the person who’s choosing to view it. But blocking the websites of legal businesses because the council disagrees with some of their commercial practices takes us into the realm of paternalism: restricting access to information for the individual’s supposed own good.

Revitalise libraries

In the age of the e-book it is important that we continue to find additional roles for libraries within our communities and increase their relevance for everyone. We will trial borrowing from the best elements of the hacker-space, and the maker movement, student unions, and citizen science initiatives such as Café Scientifique to bolster the reach libraries have in their local communities.

Digitise library and museum content

We will encourage and support libraries, museums and other organisations that hold collections of artefacts or materials to digitise their content and make it available online, in open formats, wherever possible. This will both preserve access to culturally important artefacts and increase accessability. We would prioritise the digitisation of especially rare items.

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